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How Long Will This Wine Last?

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winemakingMany of the questions that come up during the week recur again and again. One of them is how long a wine will keep. Or more specifically, which wines will keep and which ones won’t. It is a misconception of many that time affects all wine positively. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. 90% of all wine should be drank within a year of purchase. That’s right. Most wines will taste the best within the first year after bottled. That is mostly due to the fact that the fruity flavors dissipate with time.
Heavy reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Borolo depend less on the fruit flavor and more on structure, mouth feel, and finish. The tannin structure improves with time up to as much as 30 years. Most are best in the five to ten-year range. After that the wine becomes a little flat and tainted with various negative flavors related to the chemical breakdown of the wine components.
There are two other types of wine that will age somewhat well, and those are; Port style wine made by adding grape brandy half way through the fermentation process and the super sweet wines such as Ice Wine or Germany’s Trokenbeerenauslese. Ports and port style wines keep well due to their high alcohol content, many of which are served even after they have become over oxidized. Super-sweets keep well due to their excess residual sugar from which the elements that make the wonderful aromas are kept from breaking down. Trokenbeerenausleses have been known to keep for as much as 80 years. Ice Wines should be in that same ball park but are relatively new to the world of wine so there is no history to support the claim that they can keep for 80-100 years.
So the morale of this story is, if it tastes good now you should really plan to drink it within a year unless you are a collector. If you are a collector, you’ve probably accumulated a significant amount of knowledge on the matter already, but are always looking for that next bottle of wine that is going to age to perfection. I myself have a bottle of Borolo in my collection. It’s probably not really a collection as much as a small gathering of interesting reds. I also have a 40 year old bottle of Beerenauslese that developed a leak about 3 years ago. The bottle was given to me by my late brother and I kind of wanted to keep it in my collection so I re-corked it. The bottom of the old cork tasted amazingly good. It’s hard to make a full analysis with just a drop but it seemed good. Maybe I should have drunk it, but we’ll see.
Until next time,
J. Stoeger

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